Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu recaps the highlights of his state’s and Australia’s largest trade delegation to China in September.
China is already Victoria’s largest trading partner. But there is much more that can be done to strengthen the relationships between our businesses and our communities.
As part of a comprehensive strategy to strengthen our ties with China, Victoria conducted Australia’s largest-ever trade mission to China, with more than 400 world-class Victorian businesses and organisations visiting 13 Chinese cities and holding 2,000 business-to-business meetings.
Victoria has had a head-start in China ever since Premier Rupert Hamer negotiated the sister-state partnership with Jiangsu Province, today one of China’s economic powerhouses, more than 30 years ago. With September’s trade mission, we have continued to build on those foundations, opening a new office in Beijing and announcing plans to establish a presence in the western Chinese economic hub of Chengdu. This gives Victoria the strongest presence in China of any Australian State.
Victoria has a competitive advantage because, with China focused on growing consumption and improving liveability, Victoria’s capabilities and expertise closely complement China’s needs and goals.
Urbanisation is an example. More than 400 million people are expected to move from a rural to an urban environment over the next 20 to 30 years. These figures represent families and individuals taking risks and working hard to build a better life for themselves and their children.
Melbourne has just been acknowledged as the world’s most liveable city for the second year in a row by the Economist Intelligence Unit. We have a major contribution to make to the development of liveable, sustainable cities in China.
Members of the Australian Urban Systems industry cluster, an initiative funded by the Victorian Government, are now engaged in more than 20 urbanisation-related projects throughout China worth a total of more than $30 billion. Last month the Victorian Government continued to strongly promote our State’s urban design professionals and support their collaboration on major Chinese projects.
While we support Victorian businesses in China, we have also vigorously pursued Chinese investment. This State has been built on foreign investment. We welcome foreign investment as a means to build vital infrastructure and create the jobs of the future. Victoria’s trade mission secured Chinese investments that will create hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in manufacturing, ICT, finance and other fields.
Our China strategy is also focused on improving our “China literacy”, promoting our State and encouraging cultural exchanges.
In Nanjing I welcomed the first group of Victorians undertaking intensive Chinese studies as part of the new Hamer Scholarship program. In addition, we announced that 1,500 Victorian Year 9 students will be given the opportunity to immerse themselves in Chinese language and culture through an exchange program with Jiangsu Province.
Language has been a barrier in our relations with China. The graduates of these new programs will be vital to building stronger ties.
*Pictured right: Premier of Victoria Ted Baillieu and dancers at the TEMG (The Earth Media Group) Beijing Green launching at Tia Miao Palace in Beijing.
We are promoting Victoria as a destination with Tourism Victoria’s first-ever China marketing campaign, and Victorian artists and entrepreneurs are lending a hand. In the heart of Shanghai’s cosmopolitan French Concession is Tianzifang, a labyrinth of cafes, arts studios and stores. It is also a densely populated Chinese neighbourhood, making Tianzifang an ideal place to promote Victoria’s lifestyle.
That’s exactly what the new Laneways X Change is doing. Melburnian entrepreneur Kirk Jobsz is creating an exhibition at Tianzifang featuring photos of Melbourne’s laneways, together with a two-way webcam to create a virtual link between the cities. Visitors to Tianzifang will be able to see Victoria’s unique laneways and café culture for themselves.
At the same time, a new partnership between the National Gallery of Victoria and China’s Palace Museum will see the treasures of Beijing’s Forbidden City on display in the heart of Melbourne. Our NGV will host an exhibition from China’s Imperial Collection telling the story of the Qianlong Emperor, a fact that in itself speaks volumes for China’s opening up to the world and Victoria in particular.
It was the Qianlong Emperor who famously rebuffed Britain’s trade mission to China in the eighteenth century. The Emperor’s edict to King George III could not have been more direct: “We have never valued ingenious articles, nor do we have the slightest need of your country’s manufactures”.
The contrast with today’s China could not be greater. China today is reaching out to the world across sectors as it seeks to build a more prosperous society. Victoria has the capabilities to be a partner in China’s continued development. To make the most of this opportunity, the Victorian Government will continue to implement its strategy to attract investment, create jobs and grow Victoria and China together. ■
*Ted Baillieu is the Premier of Victoria and led Australia’s largest-ever trade mission to China in September.
**Pictured top left: Premier of Victoria Ted Baillieu presenting a Prospectus to Mr Wang Xiaojia from the Ministry of Commence at the Infrastructure Investment Roundtable in Beijing in September 2012.